What Happens When the Finger Gets Pointed at a Pet Food Company Without Proof?

Weruva logoThere’s been some online drama in Australia around the possibility that there may be something wrong with certain flavors of Weruva’s BFF canned cat foods — only in some of the flavors that are made only for Australia, manufactured in an isolated human food manufacturing facility that makes only these flavors just for the Australian market. The large Australian pet food chain that carries the BFF has pulled all of the food off the shelves as a precaution after receiving some reports of cats that appeared to have gotten sick after eating this particular BFF. But cause and effect has yet to be established and there are other factors that have to be considered and factored in before a social media storm hits a company like a tsunami of anger and accusations. I’m here to suggest thoughtfulness, calm and reason — and to stand up for Weruva, which I know from over 10 years of close experience is as fine a company in its practices and ethics as any company making human baby food, for example.

There is now a very active FB page for this store in Australia that is filled with many people claiming to have sick cats, but also spewing hostility against all pet food, all pet food companies. It’s a pile-on, angry, free-for-all that serves no one, and certainly not the cats.

While of course I feel for everyone’s worries and any cats suffering, I strongly urge people to take a step back and not rush to judgment. I’m writing this as a cautionary tale about the use and mis-use of social media to share information — or in some cases to escalate facts or create new “facts.” We have seen the damage that can be done by social media — whether personally to school children or in the political area. Previous pet food recalls have made owners very quick on the trigger finger, but please put down those weapons on social media. Before there is a public indictment of a particular food or company, the facts have to be made clear. Was it actually only two cats who were sickened and with entirely different symptoms? Or was it many cats? Did the owners really feed only the one flavor of BFF canned food (made only for the Australian market) or did they actually eat several other kinds of food, including store brand dry food? Medical records need to be closely reviewed by a 3rd party expert. Containers of the suspected food have to be identified and need to be independently tested by an accredited laboratory.

The Weruva company obviously wants to get to the bottom of this every bit as urgently as cat owners do, but the process of receiving information from Australia has not been swift nor easy. The codes on the cans have been slow in coming so batch numbers couldn’t be identified. The medical facts from Australian veterinarians have not been forthcoming. There has been no list of symptoms nor tests done on afflicted cats on which an independent medical professional could draw any clear conclusion about what, if anything, these cats had in common with their diet or their illness.

I never like to be cynical, but based on the social media forums in Australia that I read, my antennae went up about something just not making sense. How could it be that with one posting about a sick cat, suddenly a lot of other people came out of the woodwork with stories of their own. They claimed to feed “exclusively BFF and came upon cans the contents of which smelled or looked different than usual.” They said they fed it to their cats. That smells fishy right there: why would they feed something they claim seemed “off?” Wouldn’t the appropriate thing be to call the store and/or take it back in? And if, as some claimed, they chose to go ahead and feed that “unusual” food to their cat anyway, and then that cat became very ill — why would they not have notified the store or company right away when that happened? Wouldn’t they be concerned for other cat owners if they really suspected the food was at fault? Wouldn’t they want to “go on record” as having had this terrible experience? Instead they kept quiet until this larger outcry and then jumped in claiming enormous vet bills for their sickened cats and shaking their virtual fists. Shouldn’t this scenario instill some suspicion and doubt?

I do want to tell you what I know about Weruva, the company that makes BFF — and Cats in the Kitchen. As the author of THE CAT BIBLE which I spent years researching, and host of several pet talk radio shows including CAT CHAT and DOG TALK (and Kitties, Too!), I’m known as a pet wellness advocate. My area of special interest and study has always been pet nutrition, in particular research on the optimal diet for cats (which should never involve dry food which I refer to as “kitty crack”). When I first learned of the WERUVA company over 10 years ago — at the very beginning of this family owned company — I was amazed that they were making their cat foods exclusively in human food facilities, under the strictest E.U. standards for human food ingredients and preparation, which are actually significantly more strict than U.S. standards for human food production! At the time, I knew of no other pet food company undertaking this enormous cost and commitment of making canned pet food from ingredients actually and legally good enough for people to eat. Weruva’s commitment to feline wellness above all else — above profits, above common low standards for what cats are fed — so impressed me that I made Weruva my #1 choice for what cat lovers should feed their pussycats when CAT CHAT was a weekly live call-in show on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years. I have been recommending Weruva for years and hundreds of cat owners have gotten in touch over the years to thank me for making them aware of the company and how much their cats loved the tasty foods. Over time, Weruva actually became a sponsor of my radio shows, but that happened only after I identified them as having created the gold standard for quality in their pet food ingredients and production facilities.

Whatever might have possibly happened with the exclusive Australian BFF canned food flavors (which was made solely for Australia in an isolated human food manufacture facility, and none of it destined for the U.S. market) remains unknown at this time. Many Australians are posting on FB about sick cats, but cause and effect is something we can only conjecture about at this stage. One owner says his cat died of FIP, which is entirely different than vomiting or kidney failure or vestibular disease or a variety of other symptoms mentioned. As I understand it, Weruva was not given access to the full medical reports of all the sick kitties, so there is no way for them to have veterinary specialists weigh in on possible causes for the variety of symptoms in sickened cats.

Pulling the suspected BFF canned foods off the shelf by the store makes cautionary sense — however, no one should jump to any conclusions about an entire brand or even product line being the cause of illness. Until tests are done on some of that food from this isolated facility to determine whether it might have become contaminated, there is no evidence to prove cause and effect. I want to stand up for the Weruva company as being the highest example of excellence I have encountered in 12 years in the pet field. This company is one we should view as an ally for our pets, not an enemy. This is a company to think the best of, not assume anything bad about. The owner, David Forman, is devoted to the welfare of dogs and cats and highly educated and serious about food production and ingredients. I have watched his company from inside and outside for over a decade and I can give you my objective opinion as a member of the pet media that the entire Weruva family holds themselves to the highest personal and professional standards and ethics. This is not a company to “throw under the bus.” This is a company which all pet lovers need to be grateful for in a world where most pet food is made by gigantic companies with little oversight or involvement in ingredients, manufacturing, etc. They are determined to the bottom of this and solve whatever the problem may be.

Feel free to write me with any questions or comments to RadioPetLady@gmail.com. I am here for pet lovers in whatever way I can be of help.

—Tracie Hotchner

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